Netflix unveils own K-drama with zombie series 'Kingdom'

Reyma Buan-Deveza, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2019 05:49 PM

(From left): Ryu Seung-yong, Bae Doona, Ju Ji-hoon, writer Kim Eun-hee, and director Kim Seong-hun at the press conference for Kingdom on January 21, 2019 at the Intercontinental COEX in Seoul, South Korea

GANGNAM, South Korea – Netflix Inc. is set to debut the streaming service's first Korean-produced online series "Kingdom," a genre-busting zombie mystery thriller set in the last Korean kingdom of Joseon.

The six-episode series will premiere on January 25 on Netflix worldwide.

"Kingdom" was first announced at Netflix's content showcase, “See What’s Next: Asia,” last November, along with other Asian original productions from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and India.

“More than half of Asian content hours viewed on Netflix this year are viewed outside the region, so we have confidence that our upcoming slate of Asian productions will find fans in their home countries and abroad,” Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, said at the time. 

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Combining two popular genres -- historical period drama and zombie action-thriller -- "Kingdom" is set in Korea’s medieval Joseon period where a crown prince is sent to investigate a mysterious outbreak that leads him to a brutal truth that threatens the kingdom.

Netflix's vice president of international originals Erik Barmack said in a statement that "Kingdom" captured their imaginations "from the moment we read the script with its visual feast of historical drama blended with supernatural fantasy." 
"Kingdom" is directed by Kim Seong-hun, whose movie "Tunnel" was a Korean box-office hit, and written by Kim Eun-hee, whose series "Signal" was one of the top K-dramas in 2016 and has been working on "Kingdom" since 2011. 

"I wanted to write a story that reflects the fears and anxiety of modern times but explored through the lens of a romantic fascination of the historical Joseon period. Working with Netflix helps us to unlock this creative vision for 'Kingdom' and I am excited to further build this unique story with the director for whom I have tremendous respect,” the writer said in a statement.


Korean actor Ju Ji-hoon, who starred in the fantasy epic "Along With the Gods," plays the crown prince Lee Chang who was framed as a traitor and goes on a suicide mission to unravel a zombie plague. 

"One of the biggest challenges is that because it's a historical period drama, there's certain type of ideology or certain attitude that my character had. However, the story will be seen by audience of modern times," Ju Ji-hoon said through an interpreter in an interview with ABS-CBN News and other members of entertainment media here on Monday.

Korean star Ju Ji-hoon. Handout photo

"I think it was important for us to maintain that sort of balance along with the actors as well as the director to be able to deliver the reality of time as well as deliver the story that we want to deliver," he added.

Korean actress Bae Doona. Handout photo

Joing Ju is Korean actress Bae Doona, who was cast in "Cloud Atlas" and "Jupiter Ascending", as well as the Netflix series "Sense8," plays a nurse investigating the cause of the plague.

"This is my first history drama. When it comes to challenges it's actually the opposite of Ju Ji-hoon because I was frustrated with the fact that my character didn't have a lot of action scenes. ... When it comes to Korean drama there's certain form of speech that is quite unique in the Korean language. And I'm sure that is also the case in English and other languages as well. I really had to think hard about the particular speech as well as the attitude that would fit that particular time and era," Bae said through an interpreter.

Korean actor Ryu Seung-yong. Handout photo

Meanwhile, veteran Korean actor Ryu Seung-ryong, who starred in the Korean hit “Miracle in Cell No. 7,” plays chief state councilor Cho Hak-ju, the most powerful man next to the king being the defacto ruler of Joseon, who desires to maintain his power and kill the crown prince. 

"I focus more on the tone of my voice and also my glare so that it could really bring fear in the audience. It was quite difficult for me because I had to play a character that is scarier than zombies but I was actually really scared of the zombies themselves. So that's quite difficult," he said.